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Showing posts from August, 2021

Learning a New Outdoor/Camping Habit

Humans do seem to have stubborn predispositions. Children would rather eat dessert before their vegetables. Adolescents have difficulty thinking that something is more important about a potential sweetheart than their physical appearance. And outdoorsmen have their stubborn inclinations. A beginner wants loop routes instead of out-and-backs. Sheer necessity made me adapt to an out-and-back mindset. After all, most spur roads deadend halfway up a mountain, while the loop routes are full of motor-crazed yahoos. I am still surprised (and happy) that I was able to make that transition. But one predisposition remained: beginning a trip by pedaling uphill, getting the required dosage, enjoying the view at the top, and then coasting back down. This pattern worked so well because the sweaty ascents were in the cool of the morning, and the descents were in warmer air. And there is something pleasing about looking forward to 'eating your dessert' after you have finished the hard work fir

Cool, Clear Water in a Dry, Desolate Land

There was supposed to be a spring on the ride today. I certainly hoped so, since I had biked downhill from my ridgetop aerie to creek level. It would be quite a grunt to get back to camp. The creek was turning into a pretty good sized tributary of the Green River, in western Wyoming. The forest service is wonderful here. There was virtually no signage. When I finally got to a little parking lot for the spring, nobody was there. You had to want to find it -- you couldn't just be a tourist rushing to their next scenic delight. That might sound like a little thing, but it feeds a mood that you can love. I left my mountain bike in the parking lot, unguarded, unlocked, and walked to the spring.  It actually seemed like a mountain stream at first. Quite noisy.  But all that water was coming from one crack in the mountain side, where the water gushed out without any moiling riffles:  I am almost glad -- I said "almost" -- for the ghastly drought, and for admitting how horrible i

Lassoing Authenticity in the Wyoming High Country

The delicious rain had ended by morning. It had been replaced by fog. The drought had gone on so long, that I had forgotten what fog was like. It had become almost exotic. Out of that fog rode a man on horseback. He cut quite an impressive figure. Playing a hunch I said "only one dog today," in Spanish. He understood. But my Spanish has weakened over the years since I have stopped going to Mexico in my RV. Indeed he was a pastor, a shepherd, and was from Peru. He was here for cinco meses, five months. A previous summer he had worked near Elko, Nevada. But he wasn't just visiting me on a social call. He pulled out several batteries that needed recharging. How ironic! This hombre lived in a tent for those five months, rather primitively, in a manner reminiscent of the 1800s; perhaps as primitive as the pioneers who traveled the valley a few miles from this ridge, on their way to Oregon or California. Yet he had two Samsung smartphones that needed recharging. He also had

The Life of A Peruvian 'Pastor'?

  Would it be necessary to go out to the van and dig out the Mr. Heater BigBuddy -- in August? Maybe so. I have adapted to brutal sunlight and aridity. Hopeless drought has become normal. And now it was foggy and cold. Did it even reach 50F today? Late in the afternoon, after a day of much needed rain, the sky brightened up a bit. The best way of avoiding cabin fever is to take advantage of these little breaks in the weather by going out for a walk. Coffee Girl certainly appreciated that. I heard a human voice close to my trailer. Who could be in this neighborhood, now ? Outside a man was walking by with three dogs: two Australian shepherds and a Great Pyrenees. He said something about "caballos," Spanish for horses. But it seemed like some of his words were English. He, five horses, and three dogs overlapped our walk a couple times. We were too far away to talk, but we exchanged friendly waves of the hand.  One of the horses had a bell, un cencerro, which made quite a bit

Hollywood Wagon Trains Versus the Real Thing

I've graduated from parrot videos to oxen videos. This is progress. Seriously. I started reading an excellent book, "The Best Land Under Heaven," by Michael Wallis. It's about the infamous Donner Party of 1846 and their misadventures on the way to California. It is easier to relate to some of this because I have camped on the old wagon trails this summer. At the moment I am stranded in the rain while camping above Cokeville, WY. Will it even reach 50 F today? The book shocked me when it said that virtually all of the wagons were pulled by a single yoke of oxen, that is, two oxen side by side. That isn't what they show on "Wagon Train," starring Ward Bond. I should sue his ass. Ward Bond, screen shot from Of course horses are pretty and they move faster than plodding oxen, so they look good on camera. But I was feeling pretty stupid. What is an ox, exactly? I always thought it was a breed or sub-species of bovine that was quite distinct from a st

A Whole Herd-Full of Darlin's

  It is too bad these little guys don't look too road-worthy. I'd like to travel in one just to see people's reactions. These would really put those young van nomads (with the Sprinters) in their place! Why would there be a whole herd of them in one place? Is there such a thing as a broker for sheepherder's huts? Notice that a couple of them have solar panels. But the broom fixed to the outside, near the rear door, is standard equipment.

Global Schadenfreude Over the Fall of Kabul?

It is hard to know how much schadenfreude was felt around the world  yesterday. Washington DC has become virtually a rogue government, always at war somewhere, always bombing some weak country with its high-tech weapons, while hypocritically preaching democracy and human rights. And it was humiliated by low-budget religious fanatics out of the Middle Ages.  If the Taliban were a more sympathetic group, there might have been dancing in the streets around the world. I wonder if this will reduce bloodshed around the world, or whether the world will get even more dangerous. When a champion boxer loses his title, he starts dreaming of making a comeback. Will Washington DC do this? It might become more selective about its future victims. It needs to "win" for a change in order to reclaim some of its lost prestige. Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator" Washington DC should not take on a large country like Iran. Iraq has already been destroyed, so there won't be any g

Wildlife Week

  There is something a little scary about a badger. Maybe it is the weird flatness of their bodies. Anyway, I won't take my old sweetheart on her morning or evening walks in that direction again! It was only the second time I've seen a badger. This has been a great week for wildlife: two bull mooses, uncountable antelopes, two noisy deranged geese, cows that jumped over a barbed wire fence when scared by the mountain bike, grouses the size of pheasants, and my favorite, a kestrel. There is no mountain biking better than climbing a ridge into the unknown. I had just started the return back down the ridge. The north faces of the ravines were forested, while the rest was sagebrush. And just then I noticed a small bird hovering, levitating. That is, it was flying with zero ground speed, and 15-20 mph air speed. It must have been a kestrel or sparrow hawk. Any bird that plays with 'ridge lift' is a soulmate of mine. That sounds like something a hang glider would say, instead

Rematch with the Canine Marriage Brokers

  Since my old sweetheart will be headed for doggie heaven in a few months, I started to look into getting my third -- and probably last -- dog. My goodness, it is discouraging. Go to the usual websites and all you will see is pit bull mixes, huskies, Great Pyrenees, German shepherds, etc.  Of course, their inventory is dominated by dogs that people don't want -- the desirable dogs practically sell themselves. I wonder if they even make a new entry in the website when a dog comes in that will "sell" in 24 hours?  It is difficult to think without making generalizations about breeds. You do have to start somewhere. As the process goes on, you have to remind yourself that you are adopting a specific individual, not a statistical generalization. A visitor to my camp once upon a time, who was an extreme example of the difference between an individual and a breed-stereotype. This time around I won't spend much effort researching dog breeds. I did the first time around, b

Over the Top

Once again I was on a old Wagon Trail in southwestern Wyoming, and there was no signage. And once again, I appreciated the lack of signage. Previously, crossing the ridge on mountain bike had proved too difficult -- this time, walking would have to do. After parking the van and starting off, these guys immediately showed themselves.  Naturally there was water nearby to attract these two bull mooses. (And I refuse to leave off the 's' for plurals when referring to deer, elk, moose, sheep, etc.) It was surprising to see how black they were -- I thought mooses were dark brown. They were wary of me and kept an eye on me. I froze, and let them walk off. The trail in the background is not the old Wagon Trail, as I first thought. It seemed right to demand a refund from Ward Bond. Still, the real trail was steeper than any pioneer wanted. But it wasn't the steepness that was so bad -- it was the 170 years of erosion on the trail! There were only short sections that could be biked.

Making the Best of What Mother Nature Gives You

  Ahh dear, I was so looking forward to getting back to the north for my second summer in a row. Does southwestern Wyoming count as "north"? The air will just get worse towards Idaho, since it is in the "smoke shadow" of northern California fires, as well as Idaho fires.   Next summer I won't be campground hosting, so I will go to the Northwest about 15 May, and leave 10 July or whenever the wildfire season kicks up. That way I will avoid the fire season (early summer) in the Southwest and the fire season in the Northwest. After leaving the smokey Northwest, I will head south, very slowly.  On the internet, travelers tend to say disparaging things about Wyoming. They probably hang out on Interstate 80 too much. Or they complain about the wind, which is understandable. But the wind dies down in late summer. A breeze is a nice thing -- it means you can camp out in direct sunlight, without trees, and you will stay reasonably comfortable.  There is always a great d

Ignored But Glorious

  This was the place where the old Wagon Trail was supposed to cross the road. The word "Gap" on a map has a certain attraction. Some government agency had done a good job with a plaque. But that was it -- there was no other signage. It is possible to learn to like that. Of course it means that you are not quite sure where you are going. I biked in the direction that the plaque suggested. Maybe. Without any signs spilling out the answer, all I could do was look at the land. I was trapped between two high ridges, both of which went north/south -- bad luck for the pioneers who were headed west. But the geography was so lucky. There really was a smooth, gentle, green gap through the ridge -- almost like a swale. Their stock animals could graze through the gap. A trickle of water flowed. This is not tourist scenery. You can only appreciate its "beauty" when you are struggling to cross the land under your own (or an animal's) power, and when you are looking for grass

Bliss at Last

Despite my paean to gravel roads in the last post, it seemed prudent to pull off onto a dry spot when hard rain started. I chose a flat area at the top of a hill, since it seemed well drained and grassy. Further on, I might have gotten suckered into crossing a creek, like those fools in the videos of AZ floods. So I just sat in the van and gawked with astonishment at the hard rain. I had forgotten how scary lightning can be. The next morning it was mostly sunny, but the air was still damp. The nearby ridge was visible now -- and green and lovely. The wind and sun were doing their best to dry the ground, so I probably wouldn't get stuck trying to leave. Memory of that morning will probably last for the rest of my life. It was fine. 

What Makes a Road Interesting

  Rain at last. It felt strange, like I was experiencing it for the first time. Seriously I couldn't remember the last time it rained more than a sprinkle or two.  I was acting like a house cat who is let outside for the first time, after a half inch of snow. What about driving to town in this crazy stuff? People who live in cities and towns take 'road' and 'pavement' as synonymous. Rain and dirt roads are frustrating and even a bit scary. Try driving around Moab UT sometime after a rain. The road looks like red sandstone, but it isn't; it has some clay mixed in. You can't judge the firmness of wet ground just by looking out the windshield. It is better to have a pair of rubber-soled boots and jump out of the vehicle frequently to probe the ground. In olden times mud must have caused more 'cabin fever' than snow and hard-frozen ground. Spring must have been a terrible season. Our ancestors must have looked forward to May more than anything in the yea